Cyber troll “Mabus” faces new charges for social media threats

For years, a troll known as Mabus harassed skeptics, atheists and scientists online. That campaign seemed to have ended last year when Dennis Markuze plead guilty to uttering threats. But he was back in court this week in Montreal facing new charges, the Gazette reports.

As a condition of his sentence, Markuze was ordered to “abstain from participating in a social network, blog and discussion forum.” Over the summer, several people reported Markuze was ignoring the court order. The blog Ars Technica reports that a number of science writers began receiving “disturbingly familiar messages” in recent weeks. Mabus was known for spamming bloggers and writers with emails and Twitter messages, much of which was nonsense but some of which included insults and threats of violence.

He now faces charges of violating the terms of his sentence and of threatening the police officer who was investigating complaints about Markuze’s activities.

Tim Farley was one of the people Markuze admitted to threatening. Farley said he had to give the police sections of the May 22 sentencing decision to get them to act.

“The first part of the battle was convincing the police that there was a (court) order,” Farley said Monday upon learning Markuze had been arrested again. Farley said he believes Markuze used one Twitter account alone more than 8,500 times since Nov. 1.

Farley also said he believes Markuze was behind a series of threatening messages posted on a webcast Farley took part in on Wednesday with a group called Virtual Skeptics. One message read, “the police won’t save you.” Markuze appeared before a judge at the Montreal courthouse on Monday where he was released after agreeing to a series of conditions, including that he not communicate with Farley. – The Montreal Gazette

The reluctance of police to re-investigate the case is familiar. Before Markuze was initially charged last year, the police had ignored complaint after complaint from those Mabus had spammed. The harassment had gone on since the mid-1990s, and in 2010 Markuze showed up at an atheist event in Montreal. Jesse Brown at Maclean’s reports that police only took action after being inundated with emails from an online petition which sent a message to the police every time someone signed. At the same time, Mabus began targeting the Montreal Police’s Twitter account.The combination of these two encouraged police to act, and Markuze was arrested.

For details of the investigation that exposed Mabus’ identity, see Tim Farley’s blog post here and Ars Technica’s account here.

 

Category: Discrimination, Freedom of expression / Liberté d'expression, Police accountability / L'imputabilité de la police

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3 Responses

  1. avatar Tim Farley says:

    Thanks for the link to my 2011 blog account. I’ve written a follow up of what was happening behind the scenes before Markuze was re-arrested.

    It is here:
    http://skeptools.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/operation-archangel-david-mabus-dennis-markuze-montreal-arrested/

  2. avatar Lynne B says:

    Whenever anyone goes totally off the rails and starts shooting in a public place, there are always cries of “why didn’t anyone see the signs? Why didn’t anyone do anything to head this off?” Here, where people have been seeing this man go off the rails for -years-, repeated attempts to get some kind of restraint put on him and psychiatric intervention for him went completely unanswered until sheer public pressure initiated what was actually a rather feeble and half-hearted response. And we can see how much good that is doing.

    What are the courts thinking? That spamming of online threats *isn’t* a serious sign of disturbance, or something they could impose serious measures for? Why? Are they still suffering from the “what’s online isn’t real life” illusion?

  3. avatar Allison Render, McGill University says:

    I’m going to echo Jesse Brown when I say that it’s a bit strange that police are demanding more powers to investigate crimes on the Internet (by invading people’s privacy) when they aren’t putting the tools they already have to good use.

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